Sam Michael Discusses The New Williams


Williams technical director Sam Michael has been talking about the new FW33, which took to the track yesterday on the first day of pre-season testing with Rubens Barrichello at the wheel.

“We did a couple of really basic mechanical tests and some aero mapping scans to make sure the car is doing what it is meant to do,” explained Michael. “Everything is working as it should and all the loads have measured correctly.

“It was a good day in terms of getting through things. Aside from a problem with KERS in the morning, everything else on the car is fine. Our plan for the rest of the week is to cover more mileage and slowly introduce the new systems we have.”

The KERS problem was the big headline from Williams first day of testing. Michael explains what went wrong: “We had an issue with the Motor Generator Unit (MGU) mid-morning which cost us about two and a half hours. We knew what the problem was so we just disconnected the system and didn't run it in the afternoon. There were no major concerns with temperatures or with any of the other systems. In total, we ran for 78 laps, which was good considering the time we lost.”

The team are, like the rest of the grid, using a battery version of KERS this season, although they are developing an innovative ‘flywheel’ KERS which they believe will be more effective. “There are three main parts to the [battery] KERS,” explains Michael. “The battery pack is designed and assembled by Williams, but we source the actual battery cells externally. This is a much more cost effective way of doing it for a company like ours. The second part is the MGU and associated electronics that were also developed in-house. Lastly, there is the mechanical drive to the engine from Cosworth.”

Both Barrichello (pictured here) and new teammate Pastor Maldonado have had time in the new car

Speaking today about the FW33, Barrichello described its rear as ‘fantastic’. The Williams technical director explains the philosophy behind the new design:“The main changes revolve around the gearbox casing and location of the differential,” said Michael. “Like most other teams, the target is to have as much clear flow to the rear wing assembly as possible.

“It is clear that we have lifted the top wishbone and track rod, and opted for a Z-bone layout, which was commonly used in the early 1990s. Using a pull-rod was an easy decision for our particular design, as it means there's less blockage to the rear. This is the smallest and lowest gearbox we have ever made, with the most extreme driveshaft design.

“We made all these major decisions in March 2010 and have subsequently worked hard to ensure reliability through plenty of mileage on the dyno.”

The 2011 season sees the introduction of Pirelli tyres and a new driver-adjustable rear-wing. Both present challenges for the design team, but Michael seems optimistic that Williams have implement these new features.

“With a hydraulic system, we're down to a few milliseconds to activate [the new rear wing flap],” said Michael. “When the driver comes off the button or applies the brakes it returns to the high downforce position.

“While testing the system in the simulator, we asked the driver to hold the button down and allow the system to automatically bring it back when applying the brakes, but there were certain situations where you want the driver to bring it back before he touches the brakes.

“It's early days [with the new tyres],” he added. “There is some wear, but we aren't experiencing any considerable graining. We haven't done enough running to get where we want to be on set-up yet so we aren't getting the best out of the tyres. The medium tyres do look quite stiff in these conditions, though.”

Barrichello also mentioned some concern about the number of buttons on the drivers’ steering wheels this season, as have others. “It is quite busy in the cockpit for sure, particularly now with the re-introduction of KERS,” Michael conceded. “We saw signs of that in the simulator over the winter as well. The loading on the driver is something new that they will have to get used to.”

The car and team clothing are bereft of sponsors logos in Valencia at the moment, but Michael insists that this is not through lack of sponsors and partners. “As has been stated many times over the winter, we have a full budget for 2011,” he said. “We are running an interim livery on the car and the mechanics are wearing a basic uniform because we aren't launching the race livery until the end of February and don't want to ruin the surprise!”